A court battle between Lake Geneva and the owners of the former Hillmoor Golf Course apparently is over.
Court records in Walworth County Circuit Court show that a $55 million civil lawsuit filed nearly a year ago by property owner White River Holdings LLC has been dismissed.
Milwaukee attorney Alan Marcuvitz, who represents White River Holdings, said the company dropped the suit and that officials hope to work with the city to develop the property.
“We’re looking for a fresh start,” Marcuvitz said.
The company filed suit last July, seeking $55 million in damages, after Lake Geneva city officials blocked a redevelopment plan for new business and residential construction on the 200-acre former golf course.
In November 2017, city aldermen voted 4-3 to deny the company’s request to change city plans to allow the development.
A separate civil action sought to force the city to disclose large numbers of city records related to the development dispute. The public records case has been dismissed, too.
Both sides said there has been no cash settlement and no agreement on the future of the golf course property.
Court records describe the end of the legal fight as a “stipulation of dismissal.”
“Both sides agreed to be friends again in an effort for a cooperative relationship,” city attorney Joseph Wirth said. “As far as I know, both sides have agreed to cool it.”
The former golf course at 333 E. Main St. has been closed and the property dormant for more than 10 years.
White River Holdings purchased the property in 2016 for about $3.4 million and presented plans for redevelopment of the site.
After the city council decision blocking the development plan, White River filed its civil suit against the city, seeking damages for its costs of purchasing the property, operating costs, potential profit from the developed property, and potential increase in property value.
The suit named the city and city council as co-defendants.
It alleged that aldermen gave “no legitimate reason” for blocking the property owner’s proposal, and that doing so amounted to “a regulatory taking of the property without compensation.”
The amount of damages sought in the suit — $55 million — was more than three times the city’s entire yearly budget of $15 million.
Court records show little substantive progress on the case in recent months, although a trial date was scheduled for January 2020 before Circuit Judge Daniel Johnson.
Records indicate that in early May, a move was presented to the judge to drop the suit.
One document uses the term “settlement” in describing a “settlement/stimulation to dismiss” agreed to between the two parties.
“It is hereby ordered that the above-captioned action, together with all claims, cross claims, counter claims, and course of action is dismissed, upon the merits, without prejudice, without further notice, and without costs,” Johnson ruled.
Another court document indicated a “stipulation of dismissal,” stating: “The parties by their attorneys, stipulate that this action may be dismissed without prejudice, without costs to any party and that an order to that effect may be entered without further notice of a hearing.”
Lake Geneva City Administrator David Nord declined to comment, referring questions to the city’s law firm, Piper Smith & Wirth.
Wirth said the lawsuit has been dismissed, and he has no idea what White River Holdings intends to do with the former golf course.
“Both sides agreed to be friends again in an effort for a cooperative relationship,” Wirth said. “As far as I know, both sides have agreed to cool it.”
Referring to White River and the old golf course, he said: “I think they probably felt the city would be more receptive if there was no litigation.”
Marcuvitz said his clients at White River Holdings hope to have new discussions with the city, although he said he does not know what the company wants to do with the property.
“We’re going to look at the future development of the site and work with the city to plan for the future,” he said.
He added: “We’re starting with a fresh sheet of paper. No commitments have been made.”
Attorneys for both sides said neither side agreed to any concession in dismissing the lawsuit.
Wirth said neither the city nor White River Holdings received any payment in relation to the case.
“There was no payment, no exchange,” Wirth said. “The city decided it would be better if they had a cooperative relationship.”